Peruse The Farmer's Market Like L.A.'s Top Chefs
For most people, the most disappointing part of farmer’s markets is realizing that they can’t afford to buy the $15 crates of organic raspberries, but for these L.A. chefs, the bigger concern is actually being cut off.
“When your restaurant’s big, you go to a peach farm and…you have to fight to buy everything they have…and even then you need to supplement it a bit,” said Roxana Jullapat, the pasty chef and co-owner of Cook’s County.
At The Taste’s Saturday Field-to-Fork event, Jullapat sat in the company of Jessica Koslow, Vincenzo Marianella, Josiah Citrin and Russ Parsons to share their trade secrets about how L.A.’s top chefs work to score the freshest produce.
Known for her canned preserves, Koslow, the founder of Sqirl, can go through as many hundreds of pounds of berries and stone fruits as the farmers will sell her, so getting cut off by farmers is a regular thing for her.
“The farms open at 8, so we show up at 7:45 and try to get the farmers to give us all they have,” said Koslow. But the drought has made it even harder to secure the top produce that chefs throughout L.A. are all trying to get their hands on, she explained.
When it comes to secreting the best produce, building relationships is crucial. Jullapat and Koslow both acknowledged the importance of befriending other fruit-seeking-chefs—like Sherry Yard of Spago fame—as well as the farmers themselves.
“The farmers get to know your tastes which is such a treat,” said Jullapat. “But sometimes they’ll say ‘here, here’s the variety you like,’ and sometimes you’ll just have to go ‘ehhhhhh…’”
SEE ALSO: Russ Parsons Talks ‘Flavors Of L.A.’
It’s the fear of the “ehhhhhh…” that keeps Melisse chef Josiah Citrin from pre-ordering his produce, an increasingly common practice by many restaurant chefs.
“We don’t order because we need to taste it,” said Citrin. “That’s why we have five people going to the market. And otherwise you miss special things that the farmers pop up.”
Even late sleepers like Marianella, the head barman at Copa d’Oro often choose to take their chances with farmer’s market perusal among the masses.
“I don’t have any favorite [farmers] because I just go by look and smell and touch,” said Marianella—even if “by the time I get there, they don’t even want to deal with me, they just want to go home.”
When it comes to fine dining—and drinking—the chefs all agreed that the quality of the ingredients makes all the difference.